Sunday, June 03, 2007


Ewan had always enjoyed overtime until now. Overtime was something he chose to do – the 26th floor was silent, with the floor to ceiling windows behind his chair glassy, black and silent at night. He could get work done, with no interruptions.
Not that he didn’t get work done during normal hours. The office block itself was most conducive to getting things done thoroughly and efficiently in the corporate world. It was an ultra modern building, glossy marble walls, shining stainless steel fittings, all sharp angles and streamlined. It said ‘no nonsense’.
The staff responded – desks were clean and shining, papers neat symmetrical piles, computer screens without the usual lurid saver screens, and no cutesy-pie fluffy neon coloured monkeys or bears perched around the work stations.
It was a pristine slick environment and Ewan responded fully. Not that he was behind in his work, he just liked to stay on and get himself absolutely up to date, and totally on top of things.
He was a conscientious young man, proud of his career, and with just the right amount of ambition to make his way up in this company. In a few years he expected to be climbing those ladder rungs quickly! Competition was fierce, and he liked to be seen working hard and in control.
He finished the spread sheet, considered for a moment if he needed to do any more, decided not, saved his work, turned off the main lights and stooped to collect his brief case from behind the desk.
He paused – was that the lift doors to the floor opening and then closing? Couldn’t be. He was always alone at night and who else would be coming to this floor at this hour of the night? Still, very strange.
He stood to leave, and with a heart lurching start found himself confronted by a woman standing silently in his doorway. Backlit by the corridor lights, but also illuminated by his computer screen, he could see her clearly. Small, finely boned, business suit, hands clasped demurely in front. The thing that stopped him, froze him in his tracks, and prevented the words ‘God, you startled me. Can I help you?’ from forming, were her eyes.
Her eyes were huge, dark, looking past him. What was the word that described that look? Some old fashioned word? Melancholic, that was what it was. Dark, imploring, staring, melancholic eyes.
He stood, frozen to the spot, a feeling of dread, or horror, settling on him. She walked silently past him, not acknowledging him at all, with light purposeful steps – she knew where she was going in his office. When she reached the dark reflecting windows behind his desk, she seemed to lift up, smashed through – although silently – glass raining in sparking shards, and was gone.
His breath came in pants. He put out his hand – far too late. He followed her path, drawn but terrified. The window appeared to be perfectly intact. He knew, just knew, it wasn’t. Ewan stepped closer, stopped a good safe distance back, and reached out his hand, putting the ball of his thumb to touch the cold shining surface of the black window. His hand went through – out, out into the warm ether. Not the ‘outside’, as he knew it, but a deepening, drawing darkness. With a yelp of horror he pulled his hand back, gathered up his brief case, rushed from the office and into the waiting lift. In the few seconds it took to reach the ground floor he leant against the lift wall, cold with shock.
In the foyer he almost ran to the security guard at the marble reception desk. ‘Did anyone go up to 26 a little while ago?’ he managed to ask.
‘No, shouldn’t have thought so’, the guard replied, and looked down at his monitors, pressed something and reviewed a good hour in a flash. ‘No, no-one’, he said, looking up. ‘Why, did you…’
‘No, no’, Ewan responded quickly. ‘No, just, just….no, no worries’ and hurried out.
On the street on his way to the rail station he looked up at his side of the building. He had never been able to isolate his window, and shaken as he was now, and with a new intent for locating it, he still couldn’t.
At home, he did something totally uncharacteristic. Two quick glasses of Scotch, before a fitful sleep. He kept waking with huge starts of fright. Coldness enveloped him.
The next morning, on approaching his building, he felt so hung over from the lack of sleep and the hours he had spent wondering if he had seen anything, if he had imagined it all, and if he had seen something, what it could possibly have been, that he didn’t notice the milling group of colleagues or the yellow and black diagonally striped safety ribbon cordoning off part of the footpath, until he was almost upon them.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
‘A window pane fell out of one of the floors’, someone replied. The group was mainly male, smoking, drinking coffee from take away corrugated cardboard cups, one fellow perched on the edge of a planter box using his lap top.
‘Twenty sixth floor’, someone added.
‘No the first time either’, another guy said, stubbing out his cigarette butt with his toe cap. ‘Didn’t that happen a few years ago? Glass fell from the 26th floor?’
‘No way’, an older man said. ‘That was the previous building, the block that was here before this tower. Remember? But that was caused by a suicide, don’t you remember? That woman….’
‘Yes, yes, sure,’ said the first guy. ‘That woman CEO. The company went down the tube. The building was torn down a bit later, and this one built. Sure, I remember. She copped the whole lot, remember? The Board didn’t stand by her. She came up here one night and went out through the window. Splat!’ He looked to where the shards of glass shone, sprinkled over the footpath behind the yellow and black blockade ribbons.
‘That’s right’, another voice chimed in, ‘It was the top floor of that building, wasn’t it? Her penthouse office. Of course, this block’s miles taller.’
‘Hey, look, I’ve just Googled it’, the guy with the lap top said. ‘Yeah. You’re right. She jumped. Christ! Hey, and ten years ago yesterday, would you believe? Here’s a photo of her’. He spun the screen towards a part of the group, who leaned in and looked.
Ewan leant forward. The screen tilted towards him.
‘God,’ the lap top guy said. ‘You look as if you’ve seen a ghost! Did you know her?’
‘No, no’, said Ewan. The computer photo looked back at him. A small, finely boned woman, hands primly clasped on the desk in front of her. Big, dark eyes. Eyes that now seemed to look straight at him.
‘No, no,’ he said again. Waves of icy cold horror rising until they prickled his very scalp. ‘No, I don’t know her. I saw her once though, only for a moment’.
Ewan stood in the sunlight, cold and gripped with a sickening fear. He looked around. Laptop, coffee in take away cups, motor vehicles in the street behind. All modern twenty first century things. The stuff this nightmare belonged to was hundreds of years ago, in a dark mansion on a cold wet windswept moor. It could not be happening, and not to him. He could not let anyone see that he was terrified. No one could see any weakness in him. He was after all on his way up.
‘You don’t look good, mate’, one of the men said, looking at him intently.
Ewan tried to laugh it off. ‘Yeah’, he said. ‘I know. I look as if I’ve seen a ghost’.

©Nelma Ward


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